RUNWAY DECISION: environmental groups’ dismay

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Environment groups have voiced their reaction to news about airport expansion in the south-east.

South East Greens say they have pledged a long and hard campaign to fight off expansion at Heathrow – or any other South East airport - in light of the climate threat.

Following this lunchtime’s announcement, South East Green MEP Keith Taylor reacted: “Heathrow expansion is a disastrous decision for the people of the South-East, London, Britain, and the planet.

“Welcome to Theresa May’s never-never land, where prime ministers never have to listen to scientists and never have to apologise for increasing CO2 emissions and air pollution levels.

“The Maidenhead MP has flip-flopped on her previous opposition to Heathrow and betrayed her constituents by kowtowing to the demands of multi-million-pound airport lobbies.”

South East Green Party Chair, Jonathan Essex, said: “We’ll be standing beside communities around Heathrow and supporting climate activists who are trying to defend our quality of lives and our environment.

“Although I live near Gatwick this is not a debate about one airport vs another – MPs should reject airport expansion and vote for the other option of no new runways.

“With a final decision not expected by Parliament for at least a year, this gives time for the positive choice: no new runways. We know from yesterday’s announcement by scientists that carbon is at dangerously high levels already and airport expansion will just add to this.

“South East Greens support the introduction of a Frequent Flyer Levy on the minority of people who make most of the flights. This will discourage wanton flying and claw back some of its cost to the public purse.”

The Aviation Environment Federation, which represents communities around the UK’s airports, has strongly criticised the Government’s decision.

Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director, said: ”This is a dark day for local communities, and suggests a reckless disregard for the climate change damage that a new runway will bring.

“Within weeks of the Paris Agreement on climate change becoming binding, the UK appears to be turning its back on earlier promises to play our part in ensuring a safe and stable climate.

“Heathrow is already the UK’s biggest single source of emissions, and is responsible for more CO2 from international flights than any other airport in the world. As the Government has no meaningful plans for tackling CO2 from aviation despite UK and international climate change commitments, a new runway will see aviation emissions soar.

“The decision is also a betrayal of local people who are already exposed to dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution, and to noise at levels known to harm health. Even if the airport introduces a partial night flight ban that may provide some respite for existing communities, hundreds of thousands of people will be overflown for the first time as a result of expansion, at an airport that already impacts more people than its five major European rivals combined.

“Today’s decision is not final. This is not the first time that a UK government has announced its support for a new South-East runway. On each occasion in the past that government has supported expansion, it has not proceeded once the full economic and environmental costs have become clear.”